Jennifer Beckman’s having one heck of a year. The 37-year-old former lawyer and current stay-at-home Falls Church mom stepped down from the stage at this afternoon’s Sutter Home Winery’s 2011 Build a Better Burger competition and shared the news with All We Can Eat about the $100,000 prize she had just earned for her Screen Porch Burger.
“My goodness, it has been a good year!” she said, surrounded by family members at the event held in Chicago, at the World of Whirlpool Conference Center downtown. Beckman describes her creation as “New South with a twist.” The burger itself is ground chuck (“straight from Whole Foods”) mixed with salt, pepper and scallions, topped with a mixture of sweet corn, basil, shredded cheddar cheese and mayonnaise (“salty and savory”), lettuce and tomato, some of her own bread-and-butter pickles and seated between the sweetness of a King’s Hawaiian bun.
Beckman says she “caught a break” in what she perceived to be the judges’ preference for nostalgia this year. “I liked my burger last year. I think a big part of this was luck; if your idea isn’t right for the judges, your recipe won’t play through.”
This was only the second time she’d entered this particular burger cook-off. Last year, she served up a chorizo burger with Salvadoran slaw that didn’t even make the finals.
Beckman had kind words to say about the other finalist burgers, whose flavors included chimichurri, ancho chili, brown sugar and bacon (“c’mon, who wouldn’t want to eat that?”); avocado, chipotle and bacon; ingredients of the classic Vietnamese sandwich, refashioned as a “banh moo” (“cute!”); and sliders topped with kimchi and a fried quail egg.
The still-flabbergasted Beckman informed us that this is the third recipe contest she’s won in 2011. Her Tennessee Onion Soup Gratin took top honors at April’s 15th annual National Cornbread Cook-Off held in South Pittsburg, Tenn. Instead of collecting the prize — a FiveStar gas range — Beckman asked appliance manufacturer and cook-off co-sponsor Brown Stove Works to instead donate $2,000 to victims of the tornadoes that devastated parts of Tennessee in the spring.
About a month later, Beckman beat more than 3,499 other entries in Crisco Olive Oil’s contest of Mediterranean-inspired recipes. Her Lavender Olive Oil Cake and a personal essay are sending Beckman and her husband, Peter, to the Amalfi Coast next month.
Could there be more wins in her immediate future? “I don’t want to jinx anything, but I do have entries in other contests,” she said. Beckman’s advice for those interested in throwing their hats into the recipe contest ring: “Make sure your entry conforms to the small print.”